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Lung Cancer. 2005 Feb;47(2):155-64.

Lung cancer in an urban area in Northern Italy near a coke oven plant.

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Epidemiology and Biostatics Section, Scientific Directorate, G.Gaslini Children's Hospital, Largo G. Gaslini, 5-16145 Genoa, Italy.


Coke ovens are well-known sources of potentially carcinogenic air pollutants, but studies on resident populations are still poor. This study investigates the incidence of lung cancer near a coke oven in Cornigliano, a district of the Genoa municipality in Northern Italy. Genoa proper and one district similar to Cornigliano as regards socio-economic deprivation were selected as referents. Incidence data were drawn from the Ligurian Cancer Registry for 1986-1997 calendar period. Concentrations of pollutants related to the industrial activity (namely benzene, benzo[a]pyrene, PM(10), CO, NO(2) and SO(2)) were collected in selected locations before and after the coke oven closing. Spatial trend around the plant was assessed by Stone's test, while the pattern of risk across Cornigliano was evaluated via disease mapping in a Bayesian model. A gradient of air pollutants was observed around the coke oven, which disappeared after its closing. In Cornigliano, 158 lung cancer cases were observed in males and 28 in females. Only a marginal excess risk was observed versus the two selected referents, while a gradient in the areas close to the plant emerged among females. Disease mapping revealed another cluster of risk for both sexes in the Eastern part of the district, where a foundry was operative until the early 1980s. The excess risk for females is consistent with pollution measurements and with other epidemiological evidence. The geographic pattern of incidence suggests a role of industrial air pollution as a risk factor for lung cancer.

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